Legal Opinion

Earlier this year, several serious questions regarding separation of powers and the role of the Executive Branch arose after the Governor overstepped his constitutional duty and set the time, place and manner of a special election to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

The Legislature requested a legal opinion from the Attorney General regarding the process to fill a vacancy when a Utah Congressperson resigns.

The opinion was completed, signed and ready to be delivered. But the Governor’s Office claim attorney-client privilege, though, according to Section 67-5-1 (7) Utah Code: “The attorney general shall: (7) give his opinion in writing and without fee to the Legislature … when required, upon any question of law relating to their respective offices[.]”

On several occasions, the Legislature requested the legal opinion completed earlier this year be provided by the Attorney General. Though, it has yet to be rendered.

On Wednesday, October 18, Legislative Management Committee unanimously passed a motion to “authorize legislative legal counsel to initiate litigation, as necessary, to obtain the requested legal opinion from the attorney general and to address any other legal issues that could arise or have arisen from that request.”

The Legislature believes that the Attorney General is required by law to provide the Legislature the legal opinion. It will also be useful to have when drafting and considering legislation to establish a process for filling potential Congressional vacancies during the upcoming session.

Listen to the entire committee here.

Additional information:

Separation of Powers and Constitutional Concerns

Legislative Leaders Issue Statement on Separation of Powers

Two-Month Update on Operation Rio Grande

On Wednesday, October 18, 2017, Speaker Greg Hughes, Senator Wayne Niederhauser, Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox, Commissioner Keith Squires, Chief Mike Brown and homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson held a news conference to provide a two-month update about Operation Rio Grande.

During the news conference, homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson said services at The Road Home and Catholic Community Services of Utah has not decreased since Operation Rio Grande. Instead, individuals feel safer since it started.

Chief Mike Brown mentioned how Operation Rio Grande presents an opportunity for those experiencing homelessness, mentally ill and even criminals to helpful resources. Good to hear crime is down. In last 28 days, Part 1 crimes are down 24 percent, and Part 2 crimes are down 58 percent in Rio Grande area.

Since the launch, the operation, 61 new treatment beds, and 15 detox beds have become available.

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, nine search warrants have been served that has led to 40 individuals arrested.

Watch the entire news conference to get a full an update on Operation Rio Grande here.

This infographic shows the successes and key items in progress.

October 2017 Legislative Calendar

Stay in the know about what is happening at the Utah House of Representatives.  Here is a list of October’s meetings. Click the committee to see the agenda, meeting materials and listen to live and past audio* of meetings.

Monday, October 2
9:00 a.m. Administrative Rules Review Committee

Wednesday, October 4
10:30 a.m. Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee

Thursday, October 5
8:00 a.m.  Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force
3:00 p.m.  Property Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Wednesday, October 11
1:00 p.m. Health Reform Task Force
3:00 p.m. Sales Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Tuesday, October 17
1:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Oversight
1:30 p.m. Legislative Management Committee
2:00 p.m. Executive Appropriations Committee
3:00 p.m. Legislative Water Development Commission
4:00 p.m. Legislative Audit Subcommittee 

Wednesday, October 18
8:30 a.m. Business, Economic Development, and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee
8:30 a.m. Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee
8:30 a.m. Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee
8:30 a.m. Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee
1:15 p.m. 
Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee
1:15 p.m. Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee
1:15 p.m. Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee
1:15 p.m. Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee
2:10 p.m. Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee
5:00 p.m. Legislative Management Committee

Thursday, October 19
8:30 a.m. Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands

Monday, October 23
8:00 a.m.  Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force
1:00 p.m. Income Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Tuesday, October 24
9:00 a.m. Veterans’ and Military Affairs Commission

Thursday, October 26
2:30 p.m. Sales Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Monday, October 30
9:00 a.m. Administrative Rules Review Committee

Tuesday, October 31
9:00 a.m. Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel

*Not all meetings are streamed online.

Special Session – September 2017

Special Session

The Utah State Legislature convened its first special session of the year, in conjunction with September interim day, on Wednesday, September 20th. The purpose of the special session was to deal with the following issues:

H.B. 1001 Operation Rio Grande Funding Amendments addresses some of the cost of Operation Rio Grande (ORG) by creating a narrow, temporary exception in the Budgetary Procedures Act. It allows the Department of Workforce Services (DWS) to transfer or divert money to another department, agency, institution or division to support ORG until July 1, 2020.

Unused prior year funds, $4.9 million, will be transferred from the Department of Corrections to the General Fund, and then DWS to support the operation. From there, they will be disbursed to law enforcement, adjudication, corrections and to provide and address services for those experiencing homelessness in conjunction with ORG. The legislation also requires DWS to report these expenditures to the Legislative Executive Appropriations Committee and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

H.B. 1001 passed the House and Senate unanimously.


H.B. 1002 Road Closure Amendments amends provisions related to city authority to allow the temporary closure of roads owned by municipalities in mitigating unsafe conditions. It is a necessary part of the process of creating a Safe Homeless Services Courtyard in the Rio Grande area, to ensure those who need support to overcome homelessness are able to access available services, and to provide protection for those being preyed upon.

H.B. 1002 passed the House 71-1 and the Senate 26-1.


S.B. 1001 Port of Entry and Axle Weight Amendments changes the language in the statute governing vehicle weight from “shall” to “may,” to provide the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) the flexibility to determine whether to impose a penalty for overweight vehicles at ports of entry.  The previous statute required UDOT to impose a fine whether a vehicle was one pound or 5000 pounds overweight. Something as simple and unintentional as snow on the tires or on the vehicle itself could adversely affect the weight and trigger a fine. This change allows UDOT to take a more reasoned approach and apply discretion with regard to the imposition of such fines. It passed the House and Senate unanimously.


S.J.R. 101 Joint Resolution Approving the Flatiron/Harper Joint Venture proposed Settlement Agreement approves the proposed settlement agreement reached between the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and a construction company, Flatiron/Harper Joint Venture, for deficient work. The work was performed on a portion of SR-92 and resulted in UDOT having to sue several contractors. Both parties agreed to a settlement that would require UDOT to pay $102 million of the original $113 million contract, a savings of $11 million. It passed the House and Senate unanimously.



Press Release: Assessing Utah’s Occupational Licensing Policies and Practices

Press Release
For Immediate Release
September 28, 2017

Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 |

Assessing Utah’s Occupational Licensing Policies and Practices

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has been selected to participate in the National Occupational Licensing Learning Consortium. The Consortium objective is to find solutions that will enhance portability of occupational licenses and remove overly broad or restrictive existing and new licensing requirements.

In the last 60 years, jobs that require an occupational license, or government approval to practice a profession, has drastically increased from about one in 20 to more than one in four.

Utah’s participation in the Consortium will continue the state’s effort to understand issues revolving around occupational licensure; improve familiarity and discuss existing licensing policies within the state; identify current policies that create unnecessary barriers to labor market entry; and create an action plan that focuses on removing barriers to labor market entry to improve portability and reciprocity for certain occupations.

“This national effort aligns well with Utah’s on-going efforts to streamline regulation of local businesses,” said Sen. Todd Weiler.

During the two-year study, the state will select four to five specific occupational licensures to review.

“It is encouraging to see occupational licensing reform receiving such increased bipartisan support nationally and in Utah,” said Rep. Brian Greene. “Wherever unnecessarily burdensome regulations exist, they should be identified and modified to accomplish government’s proper role in this arena – to address legitimate public health and safety concerns.”

The purpose of occupational licensing is to protect consumers health and safety by requiring practitioners possess a certain level of competency within a particular field. However, the extensive amount of regulations can create disparities across states that results in unreasonable barriers for individuals to enter a labor market. Additionally, it makes relocating difficult. For instance—military spouses and families, immigrants with work authorization and unemployed and dislocated workers—are especially affected by the requirements and variances of occupational licensing.

The Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel applied on behalf of the Legislature to participate in the two-year occupational licensing project. The submission process included submitting a five-part narrative, state objectives, research previously completed and letters of support from various government entities. The Legislature, Governor’s Office, Utah Department of Commerce and Department of Workforce Services will represent Utah.

Occupational Licensing: Assessing State Policy and Practice is hosted by the Council of State Governments, National Conference of State Legislatures, and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with support from the U.S. Department of Labor.




Safe Homeless Services Courtyard

A Safe Homeless Services Courtyard will allow providers to better understand those seeking services, enabling them to direct those individuals to the most suitable organizations and care. Existing facilities will be utilized, services will be coordinated and those seeking help in a period of crisis will be better assisted and protected. Criminal activity will be reduced and public safety will increase.

Additional law enforcement officers, random drug sniffing canines and security cameras in and around the courtyard will be added to help individuals feel protected and safe.

The services provided by The Road Home and Catholic Community Services will continue to be available. These consist of shelter, case management, employment support, computer lab, temporary assistance, housing support, restrooms, showers, food services and laundry.

New proposed services to the courtyard include additional restrooms, handwashing stations, bike lockers; a shaded space to protect individuals from the elements; outreach workers for service engagement and referrals to housing programs; mental health, medical and detox treatment; and employment.

A new Coordinated Services card will allow access to the courtyard, provide an ID for those seeking assistance and allow service providers the ability to coordinate in a meaningful way. This card will not be an official state-issued ID and those without it will not be denied access to food or shelter.

Creating an area that is safe and provides a refuge for those individuals who have all too often, in the past, avoided shelters because of the criminal and drug activity, is the least we can do for the most vulnerable among us as they seek our help in overcoming their current challenges.

Oath of Allegiance

Excitement filled the Capitol Rotunda as 123 applicants from more than 20 countries in unison pledged their loyalty to the United States of America during the Oath of Allegiance to become U.S. citizens during the naturalization ceremony on September 25, 2017.

Representative Norm Thurston, in partnership with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has organized eight U.S. naturalization ceremonies since the November 2015 in the Capitol.

“It is our responsibility to give more than we take,” said Rep. Thurston. “I encourage all of us to make sure we are giving back to our communities, to society and civically.”

Eldin Diglisic, the CEO of ShipEX Inc., shared his experience of immigrating to the U.S. in 1997 from Sarajevo, Bosnia. In 2007, he founded the successful temperature controlled transportation for the healthcare industry, headquartered in Salt Lake City.

“In this country, you can literally achieve anything you want to do,” said Diglisic during the ceremony. “This is the country that protects its citizens so wave that passport proudly.”

Four new citizens spoke at the ceremony.

“I very happy to finally be a citizen, I feel very blessed,” said Mayra Alejaudra emotionally.

I very thankful to be in a country where I can “practice my religion and pursue my dreams,” said Aniko Pot.

“It is an honor to be here, and I really appreciate the opportunity the United States America has given me,”  said Mutabaruka Medard.

“I am so glad I am here,” said Asma Bahadur.

Laura McNeer, field office director for USCIS, administered the Oath of Allegiance. Carla Swensen-Haslam performed the U.S. National Anthem.The new citizens also heard a welcome message from President Donald J. Trump.

Following the ceremony, on-site voter registration was available to encourage the new citizens to be actively engaged in local, state and national matters as well as voice their opinion in future elections.

See more pictures here.

Press Release: Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee pass motion requesting courts hold off implementing new policy

Press Release
For Immediate Release
September 22, 2017

Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 |

Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee pass motion requesting courts hold off implementing new policy

SALT LAKE CITY – Upon review of the House Interim Rules, the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (LRGC) has determined that a motion voted upon by the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee on Wednesday, calling upon Utah’s Courts to delay implementation of using Public Safety Assessment tools, did actually pass.

Representative Paul Ray expressed concern during the committee meeting and made a motion requesting that the courts wait to make such a major policy change until the Legislature would have time to review it. Rep. Ray’s motion passed the House by a majority vote and tied in the Senate, 2-2. Initially, the LRGC ruled that the motion had failed.

In January, the Utah Judicial Council approved use of a bail-alternative process which establishes a public-safety assessment (PSA) score based on an algorithm. Under the new rule, judges are permitted to determine to use the PSA score instead of using the probable cause statements that are filed by the arresting officer when deciding if a suspect should be released.

It is scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 13, 2017, although the Utah Legislature won’t have had a chance to review this policy change prior to the next general session in January 2018.

“Courts should come to the legislature when considering a drastic policy change,” said Rep. Ray. “The court’s authority is to ensure the law is being upheld not create new laws that could have an adverse effect on our community without public hearings and debate.”

Article VIII, Section 4 of the Utah Constitution states, “The Legislature may amend the Rules of Procedure and Evidence adopted by the Supreme Court upon a vote of two-thirds of all members of both houses of the Legislature.”

A PSA score is a computer-generated scoring system created by the Texas-based foundation of billionaire John Arnold and his wife Laura. The foundation advocates for criminal justice reform and other social issues and provides its PSA tool to any jurisdictions that request it. Nine risk factors are plugged into it, including criminal history, age, current charges and past charges. The tool then creates a score for a judge to consider.

The foundation says the algorithm generates gender-and-race-neutral “evidence-based data” on which defendants should be released before trial offering judges “reliable, predictive information about the risk that a defendant released before trial will engage in violence, commit a new crime, or fail to return to court.” Judicial systems in two states and 29 counties — including Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix — are using the Arnold Foundation PSA scoring tool.

The algorithm has generated plenty of controversy in the wake of its implementation, however, most recently in San Francisco, where opponents are blaming it for the murder of a professional film and TV scout during a petty robbery. The PSA tool recommended that one of the man’s two assailants was a candidate for pretrial release despite his being a convicted felon and a two-time parole violator, who had also been arrested for gun possession only five days prior to the killing.



Media Advisory: Naturalization Ceremony to be held at the Utah State Capitol

Media Advisory
For Immediate Release
September 22, 2017 

                                 Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
801-791-3365 |

Naturalization Ceremony to be held at the Utah State Capitol

Salt Lake City – Representative Norm Thurston, in partnership with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will host a naturalization ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, September 25 at the Utah State Capitol.

The keynote speaker, Eldin Diglisic, will share his experience of becoming a U.S. citizen. Rep. Norm Thurston will serve as master of ceremonies. Laura McNeer, field office director for USCIS, will administer the Oath of Allegiance.

Carla Swensen-Haslam will perform the U.S. National Anthem. A video welcome message from President Donald J. Trump.

Following the ceremony, on-site voter registration will be available for new the U.S. citizens.  

Rep. Norm Thurston, District 64
Eldin Diglisic
Laura McNeer, USCIS Field Office Director

U.S. Naturalization Ceremony

Utah State Capitol ­– Rotunda
350 State St., Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Monday, September 25, 2017, at 10 a.m.

New citizens will be available for interviews immediately following the ceremony. When photographing someone with their certificate, have the person cover up their number (top right) to protect their privacy.



Media Advisory: Senate President and House Speaker to hold media availability

Media Advisory
For Immediate Release
September 20, 2017

Aundrea Peterson
House Majority Communications Director
Utah House of Representatives

Senate President and House Speaker to hold media availability

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and House Speaker Greg Hughes will host media access to comment on the first special session of the 62nd Legislature.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser
House Speaker Greg Hughes
Members of House and Senate Leadership

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 – 20 minutes following the end of the special session

Office of the Senate President
Utah State Capitol
320 State St., Salt Lake City, UT 84111